On January 27 this site reported on the attempted suicide of 16-year old Vince Nett at Standley Lake High School in Denver, Colorado. As I explained then, it was unfortunate that the Associated Press missed an opportunity to talk about the phenomenon of suicide among young men, instead bizarrely obsessing with the topic of male violence and school shootings.
The New York Daily News now reports that after a lengthy hospital struggle with his injuries consisting of severe burns on 80% of his body, the young man has died.
His friends were baffled by his suicide. For them, it came out of nowhere. Even his suicide note did not leave any conclusive evidence of his motive. The article cites it here:
“If anyone says that they know why I did this…nobody knows and nobody will,” he wrote, according to KUSA-TV. Nett apologized for how the school would smell and explained that his attempt to kill himself was “not someone’s fault. I had this planned for years.”
This is consistent with what I have observed and read concerning suicide-prone individuals. They generally fall into two types: those who are hurting inside but talking out their pain, and those who are hurting but never say a word. While those who are vocalizing their pain are at risk, we may be thankful that they are likely to receive the help they need because they are engaging in help-seeking behavior.
It’s the people who never say anything, who keep things bottled up inside, that are the most at risk. And given the fact that men and boys are 80% of suicides, given that they are often admonished to avoid speaking of their pain and vulnerabilities (including and especially their emotional ones), there is incredible need to create a conversation about the phenomenon of male pain and male suicide.
And it has to be different than how the conversation was framed in the 90s following the Columbine High School Massacre (a framing which was mirrored in the Associated Press’s earlier article on Vince Nett’s suicide): as stories of unstable male timebombs whose pain is only worthy of discussion insomuch as it procures the safety and comfort of everyone else.
It’s time to care about the pain and humanity of men and boys not just because doing so helps out everyone else in the long run, but also because men and boys are human, and as such have intrinsic worth and are deserving of our compassion and support.